So, after months of protracted, torturous job-hunting I am proud to annouce that you won't have to deal with any more of my pity parties or self-abasing "Why the hell won't anyone hire me?" bitch fests.

I got a job!

And an awesome one at that-- well, awesome to ME anyway. I'll be working as one of the four head secretaries for the English Department at MTSU. There are four offices and each office has a secretary/administrative assistant. I'll be the one for the upper division office.

That's right! Come into the upper division office and I'll be sitting behin that little gray, cardboard, half-cubicle of a desk, ready to help you with all your grown-up problems.

I'm really looking forward to starting work this monday. Not only will this job give me some great benefits-- like one free graduate school course per semester--but it's also giving me experience in Education Administration, which is what I've decided I want to do in the future. The end goal is to become the Study Abroad director for a university and send kids out all over the world to get culturally mind-fucked.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling really lost. So I sat down and wrote out a ten-year plan for myself. 10 years is about as far ahead as I can think. It was a really weird exercise and I felt kind of foolish, but it really got me thinking. Why is it that we make sure to plan out everything small we do-- from having a party to taking a weekend trip-- but neglect to sit down and write out a plan for the most important thing: our lives?

I've sort of made most of the important decisions in my life a-la-carte. I floated through high school because everyone said you needed to graduate high school. I went to Japan because I wanted to go "see what it was like". I went to college because everyone said you had to go in order to get a good job.
When I couldn't pick a major, people kept asking me what I was interested in. When I told them I was interested in "everything" then they asked me what my goals were for the future. But I always thought about this question in terms of a career-- what kind of job could I see myself doing? And I couldn't ever picture myself doing anything for the next 4 decades without becoming miserable from repetition and routine.

In reality, I shouldn't have been thinking about the future in terms of a career. I should have been doing what we've all done to some extent since we were little kids: I should have been DREAMING about the future.

Most of us wouldn't have a hard time day-dreaming about the fabulous lives we'd like to have. But most of us will never try to create a plan of action to actually obtain those lives.
Well, why the hell not?
Would you rather spend your time dreaming about that life, or actually living it? The fact that there are other people out there who already have your dream life is proof enough that it is possible.

You might feel a little bit lost about how to get there. The best advice I can give is to find a mentor-- someone else who has already accomplished the goals you want to reach. Then find out about what they did to get there and adopt their strategy to suit your life plan. If it worked for them, it can work for you.

Some of us know what our dreams for the future are. But we're going about trying to accomplish them without a concrete plan-- WRITTEN OUT with specific, sequential steps to take to reach our life goals.
It's important to write out a plan like this because so many things require several steps and preliminary processes that need to be started well in advance, often YEARS before any discernable payoff. For example, I discerned that in order to reach my life goals, I need to obtain a doctorate from Waseda University's International Relations program by 2016.
The obvious prerequisites for that goal might include obtaining a master's in a related field and applying to the doctorate program. But in reality, there are a litany of other steps I have to take to get there.

First of all, for the career I desire, it would be better to get my masters in an UN-related field, which runs counter to traditional thinking. Second, financing my trip would require applying to scholarship programs a year before applying for admission to the program. In order to get those scholarships, I should have previously published research in a peer-reviewed journal. That requires actually performing research (which can take years) and for someone inexperienced like me, would usually require partnering with a more experienced mentor. If I can manage to partner with someone who is already well-respected in the field, then I will gain valuable experience and guidance while being able to attach an impressive name to my scholarship application-- making it more competitive. But how do I meet those people? Perhaps that requires joining a professional organization with which they are involved and maybe attending a conference where I can meet them.

So, there you go. That's about 5 steps I need to take just to fund my education. And the first step--joining a professional organization and networking-- is something that would need to be done YEARS ahead of time, in order to give myself time to meet and partner with the right people, perform the research, and get it published in time to include it in my scholarship or grant bid.

There are countless other things I'd have to take into consideration as well (arranging housing, a part-time job, passing the JLPT, paying off student loans) and just as many pre-requisites. For instance, I will have to take and pass level 1 of the JLPT in order to attend the doctorate program I desire. I've passed level 3, but I need to move on to level 2. Right now, the JLPT is only proctored ONCE A YEAR in December. So, even though I don't plan on entering doctorate school until 2013, I am already, right now, TODAY studying to pass level 2 of the JLPT this December. If I hadn't written out my life plan, I wouldn't have known that I need start studying NOW, since the date of my entrance into doctorate school (2013) seems so far off.

That gives you an idea of how complex the plan can be and how necessary it is to make a plan like this so you can get started on certain things when you need to, often years in advance.

To make my life plan, I used "maze logic"--I started at the end, writing out everything I would conceivably, realistically want to have, and, like a maze, worked backwards toward the begining, looking up deadlines for things like scholarships applications as I went along, so I would know the exact deadline by which I would have to accomplish a certain task. Getting this job was step number one.

And I can't tell you how good it feels to know that I've not just acquired a paycheck, but that I've already accomplished one tiny step towards having my Good-life. Every day when I go into work, I'll know exactly what I'm working for-- why I'm getting up at 5 am and riding the bus for two hours, putting up with copy machines, sleeplessness and eye strain, and hapless college freshmen. It's because every paper cut gets me a step closer to my goals.

So, if you're feeling a bit lost like I was-- unsatisfied, unfulfilled, drained, wondering what it's all for-- I suggest you try the same thing. Write out your realistic dream life. Dream big!!! And then work backwards, planning sequential, realistic steps that will get you to your dreams.

It makes life worth living and hard work worth working hard for.

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